In the vast suburbs of Fairfax County, where much of the population is transient, the residents of one neighborhood believe they have found an enclave of [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
Wexford, a nine-year-old neighborhood of 45 homes on the north side of Vienna, looks like many well-kept subdivisions: manicured lawns, blacktopped roads leading into cul-de-sacs, homes where the aluminum siding still looks new. A neighborhood that sparkles like a stainless steel pot scoured with Brillo.
It is difficult to find anyone in Wexford who can resist telling a visitor what the neighborhood has to offer besides the spacious, two-story houses that sell for more than $100,000: a neighborhood bridge club, gourmet club, bowling league, biannual newsletter, two community-owned and -operated parks, a neighborhood swim club within walking distance.
The list goes on. Every year residents gather for clean-up day, to decorate the streets with Christmas lights and for the highlight of the year, Wexford Day. And where else could you find a neighborhood that has a community ladder - kept at one of the resident's homes - which is available to anyone who needs to use it for anything from home repairs to rescuing a cat?
Residents also have joined together in more serious endeavors. In recent years, residents have collectively fought zoning changes that would have allowed more densely populated subdivisions to crowd Wexford's still-rural surroundings.
The unrestrained praise for Wexford makes the neighborhood seem too good to be true, although here and there are stories of conflicts between neighbors that suggest all is not bliss. Some persons have been known to complain about neighvors who mow their lawns at 7 a.m., and earlier this year there was a dispute about who could use the swimming pool at the community center.
But if you happen to be in Wexford on Memorial Day weekend, when residents hold their annual celebration - Wexford Day - you would have few doubts that you had found the ideal neighborhood.
"We've beat the suburban blahs" is how Mark R. Knowles describes the new neighborhood tht he moved to just over a year ago. "When all you see are the vast alienated suburbs stretching over Fairfax County for miles, it's nice to find a neighborhood that thinks it's a small town."
"We moved from Arlington after two years there without a word of goodbye from anyone," said Knowles, a consulant to the American Blood Commission. "Our second day here a delegation of kids were at the door wanting to know where our kids were."
Wexford Day is an annual rite, where residents celebrate the joys of living in Wexford. This year, as every year, a 10-minute parade of children kicked off the all-day affair, which began at 9 a.m. and ended about 10 p.m. after the Wexford Community Association presented two huge cakes to three families who were moving into the community and three others who were leaving.
In between, there were mother-daughter and father-son softball games (mother lost, fathers won), sack races for younger kids, an afternoon concert by a soft-rock band named Caravan in which one of the neighborhood's teen-age girls sings, volleyball games and a food-laden picnic.
About half of the neighborhood residents moved there nine years ago when their homes "were still holes in the ground" and were selling for $45,000. Many residents say their presence has contributed to the community's stability. Most Wexford household heads are government workers and professionals of various kinds - lawyers, consultants, businessmen.
"I thought for a long time I'd like to try something different than suburban living," said Leslie Hopewell of 9105 Westerholm Way. "But this is so pleasant the thought has left my mind. We have a real sense of community."
The only incidents of vandalism Pauli Dameron, one of the original residents, can remember are the time teen-agers stuffed mailboxes with grass and other debris and another time a teen-ager left windows at his parents' home open while they were gone so his friends could use the pool table.
Wexford Community Association President Thomas Sanfacon, another original resident, says the only theft in the neighborhood occurred last month, when a bicycle and other items were "cleaned out" of a garage after the door was left open all night. Indeed, Fairfax police say their responses to the Wexford area number are in the bottom third of all police responses countywide.
Parents remark they are pleased that their children rarely leave the neighborhood except to go to school at either Westbriar Elementary, Kilmer Intermediate or Madison High. (Many other children in the neighborhood attend Catholic schools such as Our Lady of Good Counsel or O'Connell High School.) Some parents concede that their children may smoke marijuana, but deny there is a drug problem.
The long list of neighborhood amenities includes the bucolic surroundings that isolate it in a cul-de-sac all its own, while still only 10 minutes away from shopping in busy Tysons Corner or downtown Vienna, the convenience of the Cardinal Hills Swim and Racquet Club that leads off Westerholme Way and costs each family only $130 a year to belong, the two community-owned parks and the variety of activities, nearby fire and police protection through the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department and the McLean Police substation. Despite the advantages, however, not everyone finds Wexford the ideal place to live.
Sanfacon, an executive at Value Engineering, says the association tries to involve residents in community acitivities: "You're less likely to yell at your neighbor if you know him."
Still, some yell.
A recent conflict developed over the operating hours of the swim club when some residents petitioned the county Board of Zoning Appeals to prohibit another private swimming team from using the 50-meter pool at the club for practice.
As a result of the conflict, the private swim team is out, which angers some residents whose children participated in team practices for competition swimming. Another sore point is that club hours, which had been rather loosely enforced, are more strictly adhered to now.
"I'm thoroughly disgusted with this neighborhood by now," said one resident who wishes to remain unnamed, noting that she "has live with these people."
"Some of the same people who fought against anyone else using the club are those with kids who use other neighborhood's soccer fields, or have teen-agers screaming through the neighborhood in their cars," she said. "They're a bunch of hypocrites, in my opinion."
The next major issue facing Wesford is the assimilation of 37 homes that will be going up soon across from one of the community parks. The developer of the new homes has given Wexford $18,000 to improve community facilities that are to be shared by the new homeowners, in exchange for Wexford support in seeking a rezoning to develop the property.
"We finally felt we might as well take them into the (Wexford Community) association and make them part of Wexford," Sanfacon said. "Fences have never worked anyway."